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Russians Spooked by Nukes-Against-Cyber-Attack Policy

By Ray McGovern and William Binney | Consortium News | February 16, 2108

Moscow is showing understandable concern over the lowering of the threshold for employing nuclear weapons to include retaliation for cyber-attacks, a change announced on Feb. 2 in the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

Explaining the shift in U.S. doctrine on first-use, the NPR cites the efforts of potential adversaries “to design and use cyber weapons” and explains the change as a “hedge” against non-nuclear threats. In response, Russia described the move as an “attempt to shift onto others one’s own responsibility” for the deteriorating security situation.

Moscow’s concern goes beyond rhetoric. Cyber-attacks are notoriously difficult to trace to the actual perpetrator and can be pinned easily on others in what we call “false-flag” operations. These can be highly destabilizing – not only in the strategic context, but in the political arena as well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has good reason to believe he has been the target of a false-flag attack of the political genre. We judged this to be the case a year and a half ago, and said so. Our judgment was fortified last summer – thanks to forensic evidence challenging accusations that the Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee and provided emails to WikiLeaks. (Curiously, the FBI declined to do forensics, even though the “Russian hack” was being described as an “act of war.”)

Our conclusions were based on work conducted over several months by highly experienced technical specialists, including another former NSA technical director (besides co-author Binney) and experts from outside the circle of intelligence analysts.

On August 9, 2017, investigative reporter Patrick Lawrence summed up our findings in The Nation. “They have all argued that the hack theory is wrong and that a locally executed leak is the far more likely explanation,” he explained.

As we wrote in an open letter to Barack Obama dated January 17, three days before he left office, the NSA’s programs are fully capable of capturing all electronic transfers of data. “We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks,” our letter said. “If NSA cannot produce such evidence – and quickly – this would probably mean it does not have any.”

A ‘Dot’ Pointing to a False Flag?

In his article, Lawrence included mention of one key, previously unknown “dot” revealed by WikiLeaks on March 31, 2017. When connected with other dots, it puts a huge dent in the dominant narrative about Russian hacking. Small wonder that the mainstream media immediately applied white-out to the offending dot.

Lawrence, however, let the dot out of the bag, so to speak: “The list of the CIA’s cyber-tools WikiLeaks began to release in March and labeled Vault 7 includes one called Marble Framework that is capable of obfuscating the origin of documents in false-flag operations and leaving markings that point to whatever the CIA wants to point to.”

If congressional oversight committees summon the courage to look into “Obfus-Gate” and Marble, they are likely to find this line of inquiry as lucrative as the Steele “dossier.” In fact, they are likely to find the same dramatis personae playing leading roles in both productions.

Two Surprising Visits

Last October CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited one of us (Binney) into his office to discuss Russian hacking. Binney told Pompeo his analysts had lied and that he could prove it.

In retrospect, the Pompeo-Binney meeting appears to have been a shot across the bow of those cyber warriors in the CIA, FBI, and NSA with the means and incentive to adduce “just discovered” evidence of Russian hacking. That Pompeo could promptly invite Binney back to evaluate any such “evidence” would be seen as a strong deterrent to that kind of operation.

Pompeo’s closeness to President Donald Trump is probably why the heads of Russia’s three top intelligence agencies paid Pompeo an unprecedented visit in late January. We think it likely that the proximate cause was the strategic danger Moscow sees in the nuclear-hedge-against-cyber-attack provision of the Nuclear Posture Statement (a draft of which had been leaked a few weeks before).

If so, the discussion presumably focused on enhancing hot-line and other fail-safe arrangements to reduce the possibility of false-flag attacks in the strategic arena — by anyone – given the extremely high stakes.

Putin may have told his intelligence chiefs to pick up on President Donald Trump’s suggestion, after the two met last July, to establish a U.S.-Russian cyber security unit. That proposal was widely ridiculed at the time. It may make good sense now.

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, was chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and briefed the President’s Daily Brief one-on-one from 1981-1985. William Binney worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

CrossTalk: Syria on Fire

RT | February 16, 2018

The stakes couldn’t be higher. And it is happening in Syria. The goal of destroying the Islamic State is largely complete. Now the Syrian proxy war is entering a new stage. Who are the players and what are their aims? And what does winning mean?

CrossTalking with Abdel Bari Atwan, Marwa Osman, and Mohammad Marandi.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class

By Martha Rosenberg | CounterPunch | February 16, 2018

Bisphosphonate bone drugs are among the most harmful and misrepresented drug classes still on the market. But that has not stopped Pharma-funded medical associations like the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the National Bone Health Alliance from periodically wringing their hands over low sales. [1]

This week the New York Times repeats the industry lament. “Currently, many people at risk of a fracture — and often their doctors — are failing to properly weigh the benefits of treating fragile bones against the very rare but widely publicized hazards of bone-preserving drugs, experts say,” it writes. Hip fractures among women 65 and older on Medicare are rising says the piece and Medicare reimbursements for bone density tests are falling. “Doctors who did them in private offices could no longer afford to [do them] which limited patient access and diagnosis and treatment of serious bone loss,” says a doctor quoted in the article which sounds like a Pharma plea for tax-payer funding.

But here is the back story.

The first bisphosphonate bone drug approved for osteoporosis, Merck’s Fosamax, received only a six month review before FDA approval. When its esophageal side effects were revealed, the FDA tried to unapprove it but Merck got the FDA to settle for a warning label that told patients to sit upright for an hour after taking the drug. Six months after Fosamax was approved, there were 1,213 reports of adverse effects including 32 patients hospitalized for esophageal harm. One woman who took Fosamax but remained upright for only thirty minutes was admitted to the hospital with “severe ulcerative esophagitis affecting the entire length of the esophagus” and had to be fed intravenously, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Soon bisphosphonates (which include Boniva, Actonel and Zometa) were shown to weaken not strengthen bones by suppressing the body’s bone-remodeling action. Yes bone loss is stopped but since the bone is not renewed, it becomes brittle, ossified and prone to fracture. More than a decade ago, articles in the NEJM, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma and Injury warned of the paradoxical drug results. One-half of doctors at a 2010 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting presentation said they’d personally seen patients with bisphosphonate-compromised bone. “There is actually bone death occurring,” said Phuli Cohan, MD on CBS about a woman who’d been on Fosamax for years.

By 2003, dentists and oral surgeons found that after simple office dental work, the jawbone tissue of patients taking bisphosphonates would sometimes not heal but become necrotic and die. They had received no warnings though Merck knew about the jawbone effects from animal studies since 1977.

“Up to this point, this rare clinical scenario was seen only at our centers in patients who had received radiation therapy and accounted for 1 or 2 cases per year,” said the authors of an article titled “Osteonecrosis of the Jaws Associated with the Use of Bisphosphonates: A Review of 63 Cases,” published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Despite reports of ulcerative esophagitis, bone degradation, fractures and jawbone death Merck aggressively promoted Fosamax. It hired researcher Jeremy Allen to plant bone scan machines in medical offices across the country to drive sales and to push through the Bone Mass Measurement Act which made bone scans Medicare reimbursable paid by you and me. Hopefully that is changing.

Blaming hip fractures on not enough people taking bisphosphonates is not a new tactic for Pharma. It blamed increasing suicides on not enough people taking antidepressants (even when as much as a fourth of the population takes antidepressants). Get ready for Pharma to blame obesity on not enough people taking prescription obesity drugs. The ruse is even more dishonest because many popular drugs people are taking like GERD medications really do thin bones. First do no harm.

Notes.

[1] According to the British Medical Journal, the National Osteoporosis Foundation is funded by Bayer Healthcare, Lane Laboratories, Mission Pharmacal, Novartis, Pharmavite, Pfizer, Roche, Warner Chilcott and Eli Lilly. The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research is funded by Pfizer and Eli Lilly. The National Bone Health Alliance is a public- private partnership that is an offshoot of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Leave a comment

US indicts 13 Russians for 2016 election meddling, but ‘no allegations’ they influenced outcome

RT | February 16, 2018

A US federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering with US elections and political processes. However, there are “no allegations” they influenced the 2016 election.

The indictment accuses the defendants of “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump… and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” It also claims the defendants staged political rallies and bought political advertising while posing as grassroots entities. The document says an organization known as the Internet Research Agency “sought, in part, to conduct what it called ‘information warfare against the United States of America’ through fictitious US personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media.”

“By in or around May 2014, the organization’s strategy included interfering with the 2016 US presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general,” the indictment says, referring to the Internet Research Agency.

The defendants, according to the indictment, were advised to “focus their activities on purple states like Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.”

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press conference that the defendants engaged in “information warfare against the US, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

It is alleged that the two traveled to the US in 2014 to collect intelligence for their operations. They also reportedly purchased space on US servers to establish a virtual private network (VPN) and made hundreds of accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They “posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular candidates,” Rosenstein said during a press conference.

He went on to say that they “recruited and paid real Americans” to engage in political activity by pretending to be grassroots activists, adding that those Americans did not know they were working with Russians. Rosenstein noted, however, that “there is no allegation in the indictment that it had any effect on the outcome of the election.”

The indictment was not left unanswered though. Spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the latest affront by the US “absurd.” She noted that 13 people would have hardly reached the desired outcome even if they planned to meddle with the polls.

Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, who was also on the list, opted for a lighter tone, saying that Americans are “emotional people” and jokingly suggested that one should allow them to “see the devil.”

Moscow has repeatedly refuted the claims of alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin also ridiculed such claims, suggesting that the US was “not a banana republic” to be treated that way.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

US ‘Stumbled Into Torture,’ Says NYT Reporter

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | February 15, 2018

As part of a promotion for the upcoming “Look, Evil Russians!” film Red Sparrow (hyping Hollywood films is apparently a thing reporters do now), New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane (2/14/18) wrote a synergistic Cold War 2.0 essay about the CIA’s alleged attempt to recruit him. It included a rather jarring—if not risible—paragraph summarizing Shane’s years of reporting:

All these years later, I assume my name appears in multiple files at the CIA, the National Security Agency and perhaps other corners of the sprawling security bureaucracy, with gripes and comments related to my coverage of how America stumbled into torture; how drone strikes went wrong; espionage cases; WikiLeaks cables; Snowden documents; Russian hackers and the Shadow Brokers; and probably stories I’ve forgotten.

Two clauses stand out for their confident attribution of benevolent motives to US foreign policy. First, there’s the idea that “America stumbled into torture,” rather than planned, plotted and spent over 15 years carrying out a policy of torture. This pretends that the US’s massive global torture regime—which involved drownings, beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation, among other techniques, along with “extraordinary rendition” to allied countries for less refined torture methods–was something other than a deliberate policy initiative.

As FAIR (6/22/17) noted last year, corporate media routinely assert that the US “stumbles,” “slips” or is “dragged into” war and other forms of organized violence, rather than planning deliberate acts of aggression. For reporters in foreign policy circles, the US only does immoral things on accident—unlike Official Bad Countries, which do them for calculated gain when they aren’t motivated by sheer malice.

The second clause, claiming that “drone strikes went wrong,” is a passive way of suggesting that civilian deaths are an unforeseen accident rather than a predictable consequence baked into the cake of the US’s permawar on terror. The US doesn’t murder civilians, it simply launches missiles at unknown and faceless brown people in Yemen and Afghanistan, and sometimes the missiles “go wrong.” While Shane has certainly reported on these respective crimes (as he proudly notes), he has done so in a similar, limited fashion that treats them as unfortunate mishaps, rather than intentional features of a violent empire.

For an essay that is more or less Shane patting himself on the back for holding power to account instead of becoming a spook, his instinct to assume noble intentions on the part of these spooks is a telling indication of the broader ethos of corporate media’s national security reporting: Criticism is welcome around the margins, so long as motives are never challenged.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

Witness Out of Palestine

By David Swanson | World Beyond War | February 14, 2018

Anna Baltzer’s amazing book Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories has been updated over the years, and I’ve just read it for the first time. Rather unfairly, and — as it turns out — wrongly, my first response upon turning the initial pages was: Do we really need another one of these? Jewish person believes pile of myths. Jewish person confronts reality. Jewish person tries to open the eyes of others. It’s become as familiar as “Dog Bites Man.” Couldn’t we all just share one book around instead of everyone writing his or her own, and then pool our money until we can afford a television station so that people can be made to wake up in large numbers?

But here’s the thing. While I’ve grown accustomed to describing each such book as the best or one of the best, they are not all the same. One of the many merits of this one is that it would make — and I hope it does make if it isn’t already — an excellent text book in schools. And significant numbers of people are waking up, without television, and presumably in part because of all the books, plus the interviews and events that accompany the books. The movement in the U.S. against Israel’s wars (and occupations and apartheid) demonstrates to the movement against all wars, and that against U.S. wars, that such things are possible. It may also demonstrate to writers that their efforts are in fact worth a bit more than would be spending their time helping Fox News hosts spot hidden sperms in presidential portraits.

I recently debated a West Point professor on whether war can ever be justified, and I tried to get him to name some actual wars that have been justifiable (as opposed to theoretical wars). He claimed that Israel’s Six Days War was the “quintessentially” just war. So in our second debate, I read to him from a Los Angeles Times column by Miko Peled showing that those who launched that war did so because they saw an opportunity for aggression and conquest. The facts that Peled revealed would be spreading virally and becoming universally known if they proved that the United States was created by God to set an example for the dumber people of earth. Information becomes known if it is desirable. But why isn’t the fact that every single war ever has been unjustifiable very desirable news, as it allows the world to do something more useful with $2 trillion a year?

My debate partner was a man who took part in the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan but refused repeatedly to say whether they were just or unjust wars. During our second debate he said that only fresh recruits could be excused for refusing to participate in those wars, but that experienced trained soldiers should have known better. However, he said something seemingly at odds with that, when, after the debate, I asked him yet again whether Iraq 2003-on was a justifiable war, yes or no? He said that it was only unjustifiable after the fact because of new information. And yet he had publicly promoted and participated in that war long after any such supposedly new information (presumably meaning the absence of the WMDs) had become widely known and the fact that the lies had been intentional had been thoroughly documented, and those who had pointed out the blatant falsehoods beforehand had been proven right.

My confused debate partner much preferred talking about analogies to Good Samaritans and doctors and muggers than actual wars, so I pointed out to him that Israel’s concern in 1967 that in 18 months Egypt could be capable of attacking it actually bore no relevant similarity to the immediacy and the urgency of a victim of a mugging. In making this comment I also referred to “decades of genocidal occupation” that followed the war. Someone later accused me of misusing the term genocide. So I pointed out the open advocacy of genocide by top Israelis. Baltzer’s book points out the open advocacy of genocide by many (obviously not all) Israeli settlers and soldiers. But I was then told that the crime of “incitement of genocide” is not the same as genocide. So, apparently it is OK to accuse Israelis of “incitement of genocide” but not of doing anything genocidal. I have no idea Baltzer’s view and don’t want to overemphasize the silly question of the use of a particular word, but I recommend reading her book.

This book documents the normalization of a long-term gradual genocide, one that in its duration serves as a marketing device for generations of new military weaponry. Ambulances are stopped at checkpoints until the ailing person dies. Children are shot for straying too near a fence in pursuit of a soccer ball. Supplies are blocked. Malnutrition is intentionally and successfully imposed. Fishing is restricted. A village is flooded with raw sewage with five people drowning in it. These and hundreds of other techniques serve to reinforce the bigotry behind the apartheid, and to do something that is in a strange way worse than a faster genocide: the banalization of evil. Call it whatever the bloody hell you want to call it. But let’s not let the unpleasantness of it prevent us from working to make it stop.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Logical Step: General Assembly Intervention Plan to End the Maritime Siege of Gaza

Break the Maritime Siege of Gaza | February 15, 2018

Gaza is the largest open air prison in the world, with 2 million people, mostly children. Now it is lacking potable water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity per day. There is severe widespread physical and psychological trauma and illnesses from numerous Israeli bomb attacks and ground invasions. These have killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless, with widespread infrastructure destroyed. Gaza is suffocating. The UN has predicted that Gaza will become uninhabitable within the next 2 years.

Background

In 1967, Israel invaded and occupied the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza have suffered under a maritime siege ever since. This blockade is inhumane and illegal. It amounts to collective persecution.

Unlike any other seafaring people in the world, Gaza’s Palestinians have been unable to use their ports to conduct any international commerce for over 50 years — since the 1967 Six Day War.  Ships from the Gaza Strip are prevented from leaving Gaza territorial waters, and international cargo is prevented from sailing directly into Gaza. Israel illegally blocks food, medicine, fuel, repair equipment, and other materials to and from Gaza. All goods intended for Gaza must go through Israeli ports, and Israel completely controls what is allowed in and out of Gaza. For the last 11 years, this siege has become extremely severe.

Despite international standards of 20 nautical miles, Gaza fishing vessels are limited to 3-6 nautical miles, depending on the whims of the occupier.  Fishers often suffer violent attacks by Israeli warships.  They have been injured and killed, and many Gazan fishing vessels have been confiscated, damaged and destroyed.

An international civil society group, the Free Gaza Movement, breached this maritime siege by successfully sailing into Gaza five times in 2008. Ever since, attempts to sail additional boats into Gaza by the Free Gaza Movement, and subsequently the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, have been stopped by violent Israeli piracy in international waters. Activists have been injured and killed, thrown into Israeli prisons, and deported. Boats and ships have been hijacked and confiscated by Israel.  In 2014, “Gaza’s Ark,” an international initiative to build a cargo ship in Gaza to sail Gaza merchandise to international markets was crushed when Israeli warplanes completely destroyed the reconstructed ship in Gaza Harbor just before the boat’s renovation was complete. To date, the international community has been unwilling to take any substantial action that could give Gaza the right to maritime commerce like all other countries in the world.

For decades, the U.S. has consistently blocked resolutions at the UN that are critical of Israel. Since the UN Security Council is hopelessly deadlocked with inevitable U.S. vetoes, and since acts of Israeli piracy toward international vessels attempting to reach Gaza occur without consequence, it is time to take the next logical step:  A UN General Assembly Intervention Plan (GAIP) toward ending the maritime siege of Gaza.

A Solution 

Several groups are now proposing General Assembly action under the “Uniting For Peace Doctrine” to permanently and nonviolently end the Israeli maritime blockade against Gaza. U.S. vetoes have prevented the Security Council from solving the decades-long Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. The international community cannot continue to simply stand by and allow the suffering of the Palestinians to continue, especially in Gaza, where the abuse is so clear and so preventable. The General Assembly can implement this General Assembly Intervention Plan, a flotilla of state-sponsored cargo ships to carry humanitarian supplies to Gaza free of any Israeli interference. The G.A. can also require that the Israeli blockade end under threat of serious sanctions.

The blockade is a clear “breach of the peace.” The Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza is seen by most international experts as illegal. Ironically and to the point, Israel itself identified the creation of a maritime blockade by Egypt in 1967 as being illegal and a casus belli (an act of war). The United States backed that Israeli position in 1967 asserting that uninvolved nations could break an illegal blockade between A and B, and the U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson, proposed such a flotilla of military ships to break what he understood to be an illegal Egyptian maritime blockade of an important Israeli port.

The Uniting for Peace Doctrine states:

“Conscious that (the) failure of the Security Council to discharge its responsibilities where there appears to be a … breach of the peace … does not relieve Member States of their obligations or the United Nations of its responsibility under the Charter to maintain international peace and security, … (The General Assembly states that) in any cases where the Security Council … fails to act as required to maintain international peace …, the General Assembly …. shall … (step in and make) appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures (of any kind) … to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

This General Assembly action would not be vulnerable to any Security Council veto, because it will not need American approval. This blockade is an issue that can be completely solved by the General Assembly without force or violence. Furthermore, such action would stipulate that the Israeli maritime blockade ends under threat of serious sanctions. It is time to take concrete substantial support for the Palestinians, in particular, for the people of Gaza.

Moving Forward

A group of activists from the U.S. and Sweden went to the United Nations for a week this past November, coinciding with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Our intention was to bring attention to this General Assembly Intervention Plan for Gaza, gain support, and generate discussion among a number of missions.

While at the UN, along with our allied organizations, we had meetings with officials from the Palestine Mission to the UN and 12 other nations.

Riyad Mansour, the Ambassador for the Palestine Mission to the UN, met with us and gave his blessings. Although he was not able to fully endorse this initiative based on a first meeting, he assured us that he would not oppose it. We also paid visits to several other UN Missions and distributed the 11-page General Assembly Intervention Plan for Breaking the Maritime Blockade of Gaza.

We also were able to make contact with Ambassador Fode Seck of Senegal, who chairs the CEIRPP, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, we attended the UN sessions of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. At the evening reception, we had informal discussions with other mission representatives and members of civil society supporting Palestinian rights.

In summary, the General Assembly Intervention plan is the next logical step, following the giant footsteps of the Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. Its goal is to permanently end the 50 year old maritime siege of Gaza. The GAIP is gaining a growing list of endorsers, which include, but are not limited to:

Richard Falk, Rima Khalaf, Hans von Sponeck, Denis Halliday, Miko Peled, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ramzy Baroud, Rashid Khalidi, Freedom Flotilla Coalition, BDS South Africa and the Rachel Corrie Foundation.

– If you would like to see the full General Assembly Intervention Plan and/or endorse our initiative and/or help move this process forward, please contact us at BreakMaritimeBlockade@gmail.com

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is There a ‘Secret US Hand’ Supporting Daesh in Afghanistan?

Sputnik – February 16, 2018

Commenting on the claim made by the Iranian military that the US has provided direct assistance to Daesh in Afghanistan, political analyst Ahmad Wahid Mozhda told Sputnik that many Afghan politicians and ordinary Afghans are saying the same thing. According to the observer, the US’s likely goal is to cause problems for the country’s neighbors.

Speaking to Sputnik Dari, Ahmad Wahid Mozhda, a political scientist and former Mujahedeen commander, explained that many Afghans believe in the presence of a ‘mysterious foreign hand’ in their country helping to consolidate Daesh’s position.

“Many members of Afghanistan’s parliament, as well as ordinary citizens, are saying that Daesh terrorists are being brought here by unidentified helicopters. There is a great deal of evidence to support this,” Mozhda said. “Afghans believe in a kind of ‘mysterious hand’ working to strengthen Daesh’s positions,” he added.

Mozhda challenged the US’s long-standing assertion that fighting terror was its main mission in Afghanistan, and pointed out that in its 17 years of fighting, the US has not only suffered significant material and personnel losses, but has not been unable to win this war. On the contrary, he noted, the number of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan has grown exponentially.

“It’s worth keeping in mind that when the US sent its forces to Afghanistan in 2001, their main goal was the destruction of al-Qaeda, which at that moment was the only terrorist group in the country. 17 years have passed, and now Afghanistan has over twenty terrorist groups…. Why, with the US having spent a trillion dollars on this war, and the international coalition losing about 4,000 troops, has the war not ended?… Why did [even a] 150,000-strong international coalition troop presence fail to ensure Afghanistan’s security?”

Mozhda also pointed to the steep rise in drug production in Afghanistan since 2001. “The Americans are saying that drugs fuel terrorism, and that [terrorists] receive income from drug production. Over the past 17 years, there has not been any serious struggle against drug production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, even though this serious problem clearly exists.”

All this, the observer says, “gives rise to a number of questions regarding the fight against terrorism, which has not been successful in Afghanistan.

“Ultimately, Mozhda indicated that concerns from Iran and other countries with the possibility of US intrigue in Afghanistan were fully justified, since unlike the Taliban, which limits its activities to one country, Daesh is bent on destabilizing the entire region.

“Unlike the Taliban, who did not have an international program, Daesh’s goals are to create problems in neighboring countries, including China or the Central Asian countries.”

In this light, “the goal of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan is to create a threat to the countries of the region – to Iran, Russia and China, countries which have difficult relations with the USA,” the analyst concluded.

Last week, Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Baqeri accused the US of transferring Daesh militants from their crumbling caliphate into Afghanistan. “When the Americans realized that Daesh and [other] terrorist groups lost the territories they had previously occupied in Iraq and Syria, they transported them, by various means, to Afghanistan, and we are now witnessing the explosions, terror and new crimes being committed in Afghanistan,” the officer said.

The Iranian military’s claims follow on similar charges made earlier Russian officials, as well as remarks late last year by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called Daesh a “tool” used by Washington to pursue its broader goals in the region.

Speaking to Sputnik Dari, Afghan Defense Ministry press secretary Dawlat Waziri denied Baqeri’s claims. On the contrary, he noted, “the Americans help us destroy the Daesh terrorists, as well as other terrorist groups in Afghanistan.” Waziri stressed that the US military contingent in Afghanistan was crucial to the country’s security, and noted that the US provides valuable training, consultations and planning assistance to the Afghan military, as well as direct air and ground support against the terrorists.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exacerbation of Tensions in Syria: Who Stands to Gain?

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.02.2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would order airstrikes against Syria if the rumors that its government has used chemical weapons (CW) against civilians are confirmed. Never backed up with any solid evidence, such reports crop up from time to time in the Western media. In some cases the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has claimed that the traces actually led to the rebels, not the Syrian government. More of the CW stories have been published recently. Why now? A bit of background information can offer some clues.

The situation in Syria has been greatly aggravated. France is not the only actor threatening an incursion. Israel has just attacked some sites in Syria, as well as what it called “Iranian forces in Syria” and said that it would not hesitate to do so again. It hit an Iranian drone and lost an F-16 fighter. A direct confrontation between Israel and Iran is highly likely. Israel has beefed up its defenses at the Syrian border.

The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, strongly supports Israel. It says the US will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria so close to Israel’s border. A conflict between Israel and Iran will jeopardize US forces all over the Middle East. Iran’s mobile missiles have a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), which puts every American base in the region within their reach, including the ones in Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain. A strike range like that is enough to make the US outposts in Syria and Afghanistan vulnerable as well. Israel is also within the missiles’ reach. Iran’s ballistic missiles are not covered by the 2015 “nuclear deal,” but nonetheless the US has slapped sanctions against Tehran because of its missile program.

Tensions have been cranked up during a time when Russia and its partners in Syria – Turkey and Iran – are making major diplomatic advances. The Syrian National Congress, held in Sochi on Jan. 30, brought together more than 1,500 Syrians to kick-start the national dialog. This new forum has every chance of becoming a platform to unite all those who are taking part in the negotiations in Geneva and Astana. The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura gave due credit to the event.

On Feb. 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The two leaders discussed a number of issues in private. The prospects for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis topped the agenda. In an interview with the Russian government-owned daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Jordanian king called President Putin his brother.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Moscow on Feb. 12. It was a landmark visit reflecting a major shift from the US to Russia as the chief mediator between Palestine and Israel. The Palestinian leader ousted America from this role after President Trump’s Dec. 6, 2017 announcement of US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That decision significantly undermined US credibility in the Middle East. Impressed with Russia’s diplomatic efforts to overhaul the Syrian peace process, Mahmoud Abbas asked Moscow to organize an international peace conference to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

If Moscow accepts the offered role and manages to make some progress, its influence in the region will skyrocket, dwarfing that of the United States, which has already seen its stature diminished after its failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. Unlike Moscow, Washington can offer no alternative to the work being done in Astana and Sochi. Its contribution to the stymied Geneva talks has been modest at best. The humiliation of the US over its Jerusalem policy at the United Nations General Assembly put a spotlight on Washington’s waning clout.

The illegal presence of the US in Syria has become more complicated and fraught with many dangers. The need to fight the Islamic State became a flimsy pretext after the jihadist group’s defeat. Now the alleged threat coming from Iran is being used to justify US military operations in a faraway country. America is sparing no effort to try to bring back the days when it was the only dominant power in the Middle East. One way to do that is to lead the anti-Iran coalition. The best place to confront Iran and start rolling back its influence is in Syria. France is ready to join Washington in a pinch. Inflaming the Israeli-Iranian standoff serves that purpose, but the main obstacle there is the peace process Russia is spearheading. And the harder Russia works, the more artificially created situations spring up to thwart the achievement of that noble goal.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Falsehoods and Lies: Inciting War Is a War Crime

Strategic Culture Foundation | February 16, 2018

The torrent of reckless false accusations against Russia made by the US and its NATO allies is hitting warp speed.

This week saw more baseless allegations of Russian cyber attacks on American elections and British industries.

There were also crass claims by US officials that Russia was behind so-called sonic attacks on American diplomats in Cuba.

Then a Dutch foreign minister was forced to resign after he finally admitted telling lies for the past two years over alleged Russian plans for regional aggression.

Elsewhere, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed this week during a tour of the Middle East that “the primary goal” of his nation’s involvement in Syria is “to defeat” Islamic State (Daesh) terrorism.

This is patently false given that the US forces illegally occupying parts of Syria are launching lethal attacks on Syrian armed forces who are actually fighting Islamic State and their myriad terrorist affiliates.

Meanwhile, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Russia of blocking peace efforts in Syria – another audacious falsehood to add to her thick compendium of calumny.

Perhaps the most barefaced falsehood transpired this week when French President Emmanuel Macron candidly admitted that his government did not have any proof of chemical weapons being used in Syria.

“Today, our agencies, our armed forces have not established that chemical weapons, as set out in treaties, have been used against the civilian population,” said Macron to media in Paris.

His admission follows that of US Defense Secretary James Mattis who also fessed up earlier this month to having no evidence of chemical weapons being deployed in Syria.

“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” said Mattis to reporters at the Pentagon. “We do not have evidence of it.”

Yet, only a few weeks ago, the French and US governments were condemning Syrian President Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons by his forces. France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also accused Russia of bearing responsibility because of its alliance with Damascus.

But now we are told that the French and US governments do not, in fact, have any evidence concerning chemical weapons in Syria.

This is in spite of US President Donald Trump unleashing over 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Arab country last April in purported reprisal for the “Syrian regime” dropping chemical munitions on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province on April 4 2o17.

Macron went on to make the absurd declaration this week that “if” chemical weapons were found to be used then he would order military strikes on Syria.

Both Syria and Russia have categorically and repeatedly rejected claims of using chemical weapons, pointing out that Syria’s stockpile was eliminated back in 2014 under a UN-brokered deal.

When Mattis said “we have reports from the battlefield” he was referring to groups like the CIA covertly-sponsored terrorist outfit Al Nusra Front and their media outlet, the so-called White Helmets.

Western news media footage over the past two weeks seemingly depicting Syrian and Russian air strikes on civilian areas is sourced from the White Helmets. This group is embedded with Al Nusra.

The same warped narrative claiming Syrian and Russian violations during the liberation of Aleppo from the terrorists at the end of 2016 is being played out again in East Ghouta and Idlib. And again the Western news media are amplifying the dubious propaganda from the likes of the White Helmets as if it is independent, verified information.

This week in Paris Abdulrahman Almawwas, the so-called vice president of the White Helmets, which also go by the name of Syria Civil Defense, told the Reuters news agency that France and other NATO powers must intervene in Syria.

“It’s time to take real action and not just talk about red lines,” said Almawwas, who was clearly disappointed after hearing Macron’s admission of no evidence for chemical weapons.

Tellingly, the White Helmets’ envoy was hosted by senior French government officials while in Paris, including Macron’s chief diplomatic advisor, according to Reuters.

He also went on to complain – unwittingly – that the White Helmets have received less funding from foreign governments this year compared with last year.

Reuters reported: “Almawwas said the group’s financing for 2018 from foreign governments [sic] had dropped to $12 million from $18 million a year earlier.”

According to the White Helmets’ own website, the foreign governments whom they receive financing from include: the United States, Britain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Canada, among others.

In other words, this so-called humanitarian relief organization is a NATO-sponsored entity, which evidently operates freely in areas of Syria controlled by Al Nusra and other internationally proscribed terror groups.

And this is the same “source” which has been used by the NATO governments and Western news media to disseminate claims about Syrian state forces using chemical weapons against civilians – claims which senior US and French officials are now belatedly negating.

What we have here is demonstrable peddling of falsehoods and lies by Western governments and their news media.

Not just with regard to the war in Syria, but on a range of other international incendiary issues, as noted above.

Accusing Russia of aggression, nuclear threats, sabotaging elections, targeting civilian infrastructure which could  “kill thousands and thousands” (British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson last month), or any number of other wild allegations, is symptomatic of sociopathic lying by Western governments.

The reckless falsehoods and lies espoused by the US and its European allies are made possible because of the reprehensible servility of Western media not holding to account the wild claims that they willfully disseminate.

This relentless propagation of lies is an appalling incitement to tensions, conflict and war.

Engaging in war fever is not only irresponsible. It is in fact a war crime, according to Nuremberg legal standards.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US Buys More Bombs to Target Nuclear Weapons Stored Underground

Sputnik – 14.02.2018

The US just ordered a lot more of the bombs tailored for missions of “reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” scenarios that call to mind potential military foes like Iran or North Korea.

The Pentagon is paying Boeing for about $21 million worth of Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs, the largest bomb in the US arsenal not packing a nuclear punch. The 33,000-pound MOP outweighs the “Mother of All Bombs” by about 10,000 pounds and is intended for targets in caves or underground tunnels or bunkers. The US Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bomber can carry about two at a time.

The number of munitions to be procured was not disclosed.

The February 8 contract announcement follows an apparently successful upgrade of the bomb in late January, the fourth such round of upgrades the bombs have received. The modification “improved the weapon’s performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” a US Air Force spokesman told Bloomberg.

The GPS-guided weapon is “designed to accomplish a difficult complicated missions or reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” according to an Air Force fact sheet summary on the weapon.

It is not known if the bomb is currently deployed on US planes around the world.

One pilot has described the joys of dropping the weapon from a B-2. “What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” Lt. Col. Justin Grieve told the Kansas City Star last month. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty fun.”

The bomb is more than 20 feet long and almost three feet in diameter.

In addition to Iran and North Korea, China is reported to have a 3,100-mile tunnel network where the People’s Liberation Army’s strategic missile forces are quite active. The Jamestown Foundation said that Chinese state media reports describe the network as the “underground Great Wall.”

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | | Leave a comment

The West Attacks Russia on the Eve of the Munich Security Conference: Blind to the Truth

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.02.2018

So, Russia is the biggest “threat” to European security? And this is what the West, which has done nothing to provoke Moscow, is concerned about? Moscow is to blame for the erosion of arms control, the military deployments in Europe, the close calls during military exercises, and much else that is undermining European security? This view is supported by the recent annual Munich Security Report, titled “To The Brink – And Back?” released on Feb. 8. That paper warns that the security situation will further deteriorate, possibly leading to a military clash.

The annual Munich Security Conference (MSC) will take place on February 16-18. No doubt the participants will paint Russia as a bully who is responsible for each and every thing that is going wrong, while the “innocent” West is calling for restraint and is ready to go to any length to preserve peace on earth.

The West is innocent? Russia is a bully and a threat? This is the right time to look at recent events to see what’s really happening. The US 2019 draft budget released on Feb. 12 asks Congress to approve over $6.3 billion for the US-led NATO European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). In other words, this money is to be spent on a military build-up near Russia’s borders. The ERI was launched in 2014 as a symbolic gesture to assuage East European fears. It has turned into a large-scale deployment that just keeps growing. The cost totaled $3.4 billion in FY 2017, and $4.8 billion in 2018. President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal also envisages $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, which Russia views as an openly provocative move.

The US budget allocates a total of $716 billion for national defense, including $24 billion to modernize its existing arsenal and create new offensive nuclear weapons. For comparison, the Russian 2017 defense budget was roughly $70 billion – about 1/10th of the size of the American appropriations. And the American budget isn’t just paying for weapons. It also includes $661.4 million for broadcasting purposes (the Broadcasting Board of Governors) or, to call a spade a spade, the information war against Russia.

On Feb. 12, a group of Democratic senators introduced a resolution pushing President Donald Trump to authorize new sanctions against Russia, in accordance with the Сountering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA). They are infuriated by what they call the “lack of seriousness shown by the administration in the face of a clear national security threat.”

NATO is quietly beefing up its logistics infrastructure, preparing for a war with Russia. Norway is hosting US Marines, who are deployed near the Norwegian-Russian border. Oslo is to join the NATO missile defense system. The US military presence in Europe has been growing for two years. NATO has recently deployed four battle groups in Poland and the Baltic states and is stepping up its presence in the Black Sea.

There are events that are kept out of the spotlight, but that illustrate how NATO keeps on expanding, in order to undermine Russia’s security and interests. On Feb. 5, Romania, a NATO member, reached an agreement with Moldova to form a joint battalion to familiarize Moldovan military personnel with NATO’s standards. Officially, the unit is to be deployed only under “extraordinary circumstances.” This is the first time that the two countries’ militaries have ever created a joint unit. More than 800 Moldovan officers have undergone military training in Romania. The two countries plan to hold more joint military exercises.

Romania has expressed its strong support of the idea of having Russian peacekeepers withdrawn from Transnistria, with an OSCE mission to take their place. No doubt Bucharest plans to take part in such a mission. Romania has always supported the concept of unification with Moldova. That unification would include Transnistria, where Russian peacekeeping forces are deployed. Once the joint battalion has been created, NATO forces will be facing Russian troops eyeball to eyeball.

The Moldovan government has banned Russian broadcasting. It is striving to integrate with the EU and is sending its military to take part in NATO drills, including in Ukraine. Transnistria favors Russia and wants to join the Moscow-led Eurasian project. Its people reject the idea of integration with Romania. With the Russian peacekeepers gone, the probability of armed conflict will be high.

2018 is the year the NATO Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system is to be deployed in Poland. The system can fire Tomahawk surface-to-surface intermediate-range cruise missiles. It constitutes a flagrant violation of the INF Treaty. In the summer of 2018, Poland will host Anaconda 2018 – the largest NATO military exercise since the end of the Cold War. Roughly 100,000 troops, including 20,000 Polish soldiers, 5,000 armored vehicles, 150 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, and 45 ships will take part in the drills.

One of the issues being discussed at the NATO defense ministers’ meeting (Feb.14-15) is the establishment of two new headquarters – the first upgrade of the command structure since the breakup of the Soviet Union. A command responsible for maritime security will be hosted by the US. A command responsible for ground forces operations in Europe will be set up in Germany. The formal decision is to be made in July at the NATO summit.

The majority of the speakers at the upcoming Munich conference will blame Russia for everything that has gone awry. The “Russia is at it again” approach will prevail. The deployment of Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region will be cited as an example of Russian “aggressiveness.” Few speakers will remember who provoked Moscow into taking action to ensure its own security, or the violations of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act banning the deployment of substantial combat forces, or the breach of the INF Treaty that occurred with the positioning of the Aegis Ashore Mk-41 launchers capable of firing intermediate-range missiles. Few will make any attempt to empathize or to brainstorm ideas for finding common ground with Moscow. But hope dies last. In theory, the Munich conference is the right forum for sharing fresh ideas and making new proposals. It would be much more fruitful for NATO and Russia to steer the conversation toward something constructive instead of merely hurling mutual recriminations.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment